LaVeta Diane Miller has been found guilty of two counts of theft by deception in amounts greater than $25,000 but less than $100,000. The jury in Barton County District Court began deliberations at 9 a.m. Monday, and reached a verdict shortly before 3:30 p.m. Sentencing was set for 1 p.m. on May 8. This will allow time for the state to conduct a pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) with review of any criminal history Miller may have. District Judge Ron Svaty ordered the PSI.
The crimes are Level 7 felonies on the state sentencing grid, and the standard sentence is 12 months in prison on each count. Whatever the sentences are on the two counts, the judge could allow them to run at the same time, or they could run consecutively. Either way, probation is likely; under the state guidelines, the judge would need to find a compelling reason not to place Miller on probation.
Some form of restitution may also be required. Miller was charged with taking about $110,000 from accounts at Central Prairie RC&D, which served eight counties from an office in Great Bend. The funds were earmarked for the Central Prairie Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that flew World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their monument.
Miller was in charge of both Central Prairie RC&D and Central Prairie Honor Flight when she was let go in 2012, and subsequently charged with the crimes. Barton County Attorney Douglas Matthews introduced witnesses who testified that the volunteers from eight counties served on the board of directors and approved payment of checks. But Miller reportedly endorsed checks that were supposed to go to others, depositing them into her own account. The state said she also paid money to two people – one of which was her daughter – without board authorization.
The trial began on Monday, March 2, with jury selection, and the first witness was called last Tuesday. The case went to the jury Friday evening, and members decided to begin deliberations Monday morning.
Judge Svaty and the attorneys had an opportunity to visit with jurors after the trial.
“They went through everything,” Matthews said. “They spent a lot of time looking at the paperwork. They did a thorough job and came back with, the state believes, an appropriate and just verdict.”